I’ve already written about what my favorite time of year is at home and why, but it might surprise you to know that my overall favorite time of year is something different. Despite my love of storm clouds, wild flowers, and blackberry picking, summer isn’t my favorite season. Despite my fascination with snowflakes and frost, winter isn’t either. And contrary to my yearning for spring and all things green, springtime doesn’t make the top of the list. My favorite season is fall, autumn…that time of wondrous transition that is always too brief.

When fall approaches, my eyes are drawn to colors I normally dismiss: gold, orange, brown, crimson… Starting around the end of August, these are the colors that seem to touch my soul. That sounds dramatic, but that’s the only way I can think to explain it. During fall my eyes thirst for warm fall colors, and seeing them fills me with a sensation I can’t describe…like a mixture of satisfaction and longing.

And yes, I also love fall scented candles with their warm pumpkin spice and apples. Pumpkin spice lattes aren’t my favorite (gasp!) but the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves never fails to launch me into a wave of nostalgia and yearning. Sweaters, jeans, flannel shirts, wool socks, blankets…that’s my style. I love when Hobby Lobby is filled with corn and scarecrows and leaves, when every grocery store you see has piles and piles of pumpkins outside. I love seeing the chrysanthemums bloom long after the other flowers have gone to sleep. And aspens! Gazing up at the mountains where entire groves of aspens shimmer with a gold so bright and pure I could swear the leaves each hold a drop of sunlight…I wait for it every year.

Watching the water drip off the roof during those fall storms where the clouds fill the sky in a blanket of bright gray; those storms where not a bit of blue sky is seen, where the clouds never give anything more than a drizzle, but that drizzle lasts for days. Curling up on the couch with a cat in my lap and a good book in hand, a steaming mug of tea on the table beside me (Celestial Seasonings makes a really good Pumpkin tea that is much better than the latte everyone always goes on about.) Having the first fire of the season. The smell of gun oil and ponderosa pines when we hunt high up in the mountains. Leaving the house in the morning and being struck with a chill that wasn’t there yesterday, and that’s when you realize that autumn has arrived.

There’s a feel in the world around us that only comes in fall, a taste that goes beyond our normal senses. There’s something in the air on those chill mornings, as frost melts and leaves behind dew that shines like diamonds on every surface, that’s missing from other seasons. There’s a smell to the breeze in those warm afternoons, as the wind wraps around me in an inexplicable greeting, that’s unique to fall. The trees, the grass, the rocks…all of it is somehow more there. It’s the only time of year when I enjoy seeing the fields of brown grass only interrupted by evergreens and aspens. The sun is warmer, the wind is colder…everything around me is dying but, somehow, I feel more alive.

The only problem is, I’ve never been in a place that has my idea of what fall is supposed to be. I’ve never been in a place with fields of pumpkins ripening, or rows and rows of apple trees needing to be picked. I’ve never seen the acres and acres of trees decked out in glorious reds and oranges. I’ve never walked through a forest with leaves crunching beneath my feet, staring at the branches of crimson above me. My only tastes of such a fall are the aspens and that one canyon back home that, for some inexplicable reason, is filled with maple trees.

I’ve only had brief glimpses of the fall I dream of: images I find of roads through autumn forests and pumpkins neatly arranged beside barns, the feeling of warm sunlight as I pick apples from the three trees we have at home, the taste of the wind as I stand in an aspen grove and stare at the sky… But it only lasts for a moment, and then I’m left with that consuming longing for the idealized fall I’ve imagined. I don’t know where it is, or where to look. I don’t even know if it actually exists or if it’s just the stuff of storybooks and movies.

Every year, as autumn comes and goes, I’m left with the longing still in place, hoping that someday, somehow, I’ll find the places I see in pictures. Someday I will wander beneath the trees and see them in all their glory. Someday I will stand in the field and feel the autumn wind as it brings the scents of deep forests and sun-warmed grass. And until then I wait…I wait for the time when I can begin my search, and I imagine what it’ll be like if I find it.